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High Percentage of Female Gymnasts Using Painkillers

Andy Berg

Female collegiate gymnasts are using narcotic painkillers at a higher rate than other student-athletes. 

According to a report on the recently released NCAA National Study on Substance Use Habits of College Student-Athletes, nearly 18 percent of women’s gymnasts reported using narcotic pain medications, the highest among any sport. Men’s Lacrosse saw the next highest percentage of participants who reported using painkillers.

Overall, the use of pain medication, both prescribed and non-prescribed, has decreased among student-athletes.

Gymnasts in particular have a unique relationship with pain. “Many gymnasts have high perfection needs and tend to be high achievers in and out of the gym,” said Chris Carr, a sport and performance psychologist at St. Vincent Medical Group in Indianapolis, “and with many of those athletes you may have underlying tendencies of anxiety and managing pain.” 

The NCAA Sport Science Institute will host the Summit on Pain Management in the Collegiate Athlete this July in Indianapolis. The gathering aims to provide pain management recommendations for member schools.

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